Sunday, September 29, 2013

"The Ladies with the Cookies" Chocolate Chip Cookie Pies

I'm a creature of habit. Grocery shopping and bills on Mondays...library and laundry on Tuesdays...Henry's gym class and Target run on Wednesdays...well, you get the gist.

The boys and I make our list and head out to do our grocery shopping every Monday morning, precisely (well, give or take a half hour or so due to child compliance, or lack thereof) at 11:00 a.m. Due to the habitual nature of our shopping, we have come to know and love several of the people employed at our favorite local grocery store, Raley's. But there are two lovely ladies that we simply can't pop in without saying hello to - Miss Karen and Miss Shawnna.

Karen is most well known in our family as "The Lady with the Cookies." Nearly a year ago, I began chatting with Karen as I purchased our sun-dried tomato turkey lunch meat week after week at the deli counter. As she sliced and packaged our order, we discussed our weekends and plans for the week ahead. Over time, we talked about everything from vacations to preschool to what the kiddos were asking Santa for at Christmas (kids are the most amazing ice-breaker). As our conversations grew, so too did the way we all felt about Miss Karen. 

Karen offers "her boys" a sugar cookie from the bakery, each and every week - after asking Mommy how they have behaved during that day's outing, that is. Let's face it - some days, after repeatedly pinching your brother, throwing items out of the cart, or otherwise being a difficult three or five year old little boy, you just don't deserve a cookie. This, by the way, has become amazing leverage during our weekly shopping trips: "Uh oh. I don't want to have to tell Miss Karen we can't have a cookie today."

Shawnna, the e-cart clerk, has quickly become another Monday morning favorite. As her own son is just a few years older than Wilson, I find she can readily relate to the various stages of boyhood that we are currently in - everything from birthday parties at the bowling alley to all things train and Lego to hesitations (mainly Mommy's) about heading off to kindergarten. She was an enthusiastic source of advice when planning our first big trip to Disneyland several months ago, asking the boys what rides they were most looking forward to and prepping them with bits and pieces of Disney magic in the weeks leading up to our vacation.

If you know my boys, you know they can be very shy with new adults, but Shawnna has always related to them with a gentleness and warmth that they have really responded to. And it doesn't hurt that she is always there to offer a cookie (or in some cases, a second). 

What I find to be so special about these pies is that in the forty-something pies I have baked in the past year and a half, these are the very first initiated by my children. A couple of months ago, as we were heading home from the grocery store, Wilson announced in a very matter of fact way that Miss Karen and Miss Shawnna needed their own pies. And he even knew just what to make them - cookie pies, of course! So the three of us set out to whip up a couple of "The Ladies with the Cookies" Chocolate Chip Cookie Pies.

We began by preparing a double batch of my traditional flaky pie crust recipe, sifting butter, shortening, salt and chilled flour through our fingers before adding ice water to bring it together. Then we rolled out two sheets of dough, carefully draping one over each of the pie tins before trimming and crimping the edges (well, okay...Mommy did that part).
While the dough chilled, my sous chefs eagerly (and not so patiently) awaited their turn with the hand-held mixer, helping to beat eggs fresh from our coop before adding in flour, salt, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, vanilla extract and softened butter. 
Finally, we stirred in two heaping cupfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips (with samples snagged by eager hands straight out of the bag) before dividing the filling evenly between the two tins.

Just over an hour in the oven and we had not one, but two, beautiful cookie pies. And the entire house smelled of warm chocolate chip cookies to boot.
Our little family has grown to care an awful lot about Miss Karen and Miss Shawnna. On the days that their shifts don't align with our shopping schedule, we find ourselves missing their friendly smiles, warm chitchat, occasional hugs...and cookies, of course.

It is so easy to go through our lives busy, rushing from one task or errand to another. And for many of us - myself included - grocery shopping does not rank at the top of our list of enjoyable activities. But, when you stop to appreciate the people God has put in your path - to really get to know the heart of the people behind those familiar faces you see week after week - you realize that friendships can be formed just about anywhere...even behind the deli counter. 

"Cookies are made of butter and love." - Norwegian Proverb